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A wider Europe gathers in Prague against Putin

The "family photo" in the imposing Prague Castle which dominates the old town aims to mark the spirits at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is once again brandishing the specter of nuclear weapons and when the continent fears an energy crisis without previous.

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A wider Europe gathers in Prague against Putin

The "family photo" in the imposing Prague Castle which dominates the old town aims to mark the spirits at a time when Russian President Vladimir Putin is once again brandishing the specter of nuclear weapons and when the continent fears an energy crisis without previous.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will speak from kyiv by videoconference.

Concrete translation of an idea launched in May by French President Emmanuel Macron, this "CPE", is a gathering much larger than the European Union (17 countries invited in addition to the 27 members of the bloc).

But behind this new acronym, there are latent tensions and countries with radically different trajectories vis-à-vis the EU: Norway, Ukraine, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Moldova, Serbia, Azerbaijan...

What common denominator between declared (and impatient) candidates for membership, countries which know that the door is closed to them for a long time and the United Kingdom, which chose six years ago to leave the EU with a bang?

Will the EPC be long-term or will it join the long list of short-lived projects on the continent, like the European Confederation proposed in 1989 by François Mitterrand?

Doesn't it risk, finally, becoming an antechamber in which candidates for membership wait eternally?

It is a "complement" and not an "alternative" to the process of joining the EU, assures Emmanuel Macron.

- Eyes on Truss -

Six years after Brexit, the slightest actions and gestures of British Prime Minister Liz Truss in Prague will obviously be closely scrutinized.

"We are not at all in a mechanism centered on the EU, we are in a strategic conversation where it is obvious that the British have absolutely their place", underlines one at the Elysée.

"Europe is facing its most serious crisis since the Second World War. We have faced it with unity and determination," the British leader was to declare on Thursday. "We must continue on the same path. To ensure that Ukraine wins this war, but also to face the strategic challenges that it has brought to light," she added.

At an extremely difficult time in his own country, this can allow him to regain "an international posture, a form of influence on the continent", explains to AFP Elvire Fabry, of the Jacques Delors Institute.

"Lizz Trus also sees a short-term interest in it," she adds. "The energy situation in the UK is such that it needs this space for dialogue."

In a joint column published in Politico, Edi Rama and Mark Rutte, respectively Prime Minister of Albania and the Netherlands, gave their support to this initiative.

In their eyes, it makes it possible to demonstrate that "all European countries", not only the members of the EU, are united in the face of Vladimir Putin who sought to "sow division".

However, they caution, "it should not be driven by bureaucracy, but by flexibility".

On the program for this first summit: working groups, a dinner, but no final declaration signed by all the participants. The organizers hope for the announcement of possible concrete cooperation projects, in particular on energy.

"There is a display issue against Putin which is important," said Elvire Fabry. But if the image of the 44 leaders gathered will have weight, "it will not be enough", she warns.

For the future, France hopes for a meeting in the spring of 2023 with the announcement in Prague of the name of the next host country, which would not be a member of the EU. Moldova is in the running.

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